Plans to Release it as a Minor Update to 3.6 Instead
Earlier today, Computerworld broke the news that Mozilla plans to "dump" Firefox 3.7 from its schedule and change the way it develops and releases its browser. We talked to Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's director of Firefox, about these changes. Beltzner noted that Mozilla isn't really "dumping" version 3.7. Instead, Mozilla took a closer look at its development roadmap and realized that there was simply no need to release Firefox 3.7 because the Firefox team now plans to release the most important update to 3.7 as a regular security update to Firefox 3.6.
The reasons for this change are actually rather straightforward. As Beltzner told us, given the often times chaotic nature of the open-source development process and the rapidly changing nature of the Internet, roadmaps are always moving targets. The most important update for Firefox 3.7 was supposed to be the integration of the Electrolysis project into the core browser. Electrolysis is a new technology in Firefox that splits the process that displays the browser UI, web content and plugins into separate processes. According to Mozilla, this will make the browser faster and increase stability, as malfunctioning plugins won't be able to bring the whole browser down.
No Need for 3.7
Instead of shipping a completely new version of Firefox to integrate this technology, Mozilla has now decided to simply release this update as a part of a regular security update for Firefox 3.6. Mozilla doesn't typically release major new features through these regular security updates. As Beltzner told us, however, Mozilla believes that this is a very important update and it wants to get this technology to users as fast as possible. Depending on how fast Firefox users switch to 3.6, the team might even release this update for older version of the browser as well.
This doesn't mean that Mozilla is changing the way it develops the browser. Beltzner did note, however, that nothing is set in stone and that Mozilla is always looking for the best ways to develop its software. For now, however, Mozilla isn't planning to "slip in new features and functionality every few weeks." Chrome, which is currently Firefox's most interesting competitor, releases weekly updates and constantly adds new features. That, however, is typical for a young project like Chrome and will likely change as the software matures.
Firefox 3.6 will be released in a few weeks and Firefox 4.0 is currently scheduled for the end of the year. Typically, Beltzner acknowledged, this is a time where there is some confusion about how to go forward and the confusion about version 3.7 is a good example of this.